This is the debut recording for Randy Cook and Commonwealth Bluegrass Band from the Mechanicsville area of Virginia. Cook, the leader, is on mandolin. With him is longtime associate Malcolm Pulley on banjo. Both have deep roots in the Virginia bluegrass scene, including a stint in James Bailey and Company. Joining them are bassist Lance Seal and guitarist Jason Owen. Everyone sings lead at one time or the other, though the liner notes don’t specify who sings what. Guesting here are fiddler Ron Stewart and reso-guitarist Mike Sharp.
Together they’ve developed a highly pleasing sound, one that dominates the 12 songs of this debut. With the exception of Jason Owens’ slow and contemporary sounding “He Wants To Be A Daddy Now,” the modal, grinding cover of Larry McPeak’s Civil War narrative “Dry Creek Run,” and the all-out bluesy drive of Pulley’s “I Put The Hammer Down,” the balance of this recording has a light, smooth, and extremely tuneful sound. Think of “Ashes Of Love,” a tune that is included here, and you’ll get the idea.
Pulley’s “Wearing My Heart Out On My Sleeve,” “Living In The Country,” and “The Old Pocket Watch,” Lynwood Lunsford’s “Molly Rose,” Ira Richardson’s “Purple Valley Blues,” Dickey Lee’s “The Door Is Always Open,” Daniel Hughes’ “Getting Over You,” and Stewart Harris’ “Rose In Paradise,” all of them have that quality. The laser moves from one of them to the next and, as each one gets rolling, along comes an ahh quality, a feeling of drifting pleasantly along. Highlights? Any one of them could be, though I’m kind of partial to “Wearing My Heart…” and “The Door Is Always Open.” And, of course it’s hard not to like “Ashes Of Love.” In an era when bands often overdo the tough, moody sound, it’s nice to have the opposite. (Randy Cook, P.O. Box 787, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, www.pulleytunes.com.)BW